Bramnick vs. Sweeney: The politics of competing plans

Good for Jim Florio… at least he remembers who he is.

When asked whether or not he would endorse law partner Doug Steinhardt for Governor, the former Governor put it very simply:  “He’s not the right party as far as I’m concerned.  I would not vote for him.  I’m a Democratic voter.”

Doug is the Chairman of the Republican State Committee.  The two are partners at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli.  This insight came courtesy of that doyen of bloggers… David Wildstein. 

But hey, Florio gets it.  Party means something.

It is the job of the leader of every legislative party caucus – the Speaker, the Senate President, and the minority leaders – to defend and expand their caucus at the expense of the other side.  Those are the rules.  It is first and foremost.  We all understand this.

Last week, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick rolled out his plan for addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.  It was a direct appeal to elect more Republicans to the Assembly and centered on what they would do if elected.

Bramnick did exactly what he needed to do.  After pointing out the fiscal evils perpetrated by legislative Democrats, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In a political sense, the Assembly Republican Leader’s plan does not demonize any organized, well-funded interest groups – it simply starves government for the benefit of taxpayers.  Bramnick makes war on spending, not people.  And that is good politics.    

Bramnick avoids the mistake made in 2015 by then Governor Chris Christie and his Republican Party.  Christie’s pension/health benefits commission called for many changes but he went further and directly confronted the unions and their members, demonizing them in the process.  Christie inadvertently created well-organized, well-financed cells of opposition in every Republican district in the state. 

Like this year, 2015 was a low-turnout election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket.  Public employee unions targeted Republicans and Democrat super PACs – including those controlled by George Norcross – poured money into the campaigns of Democrat challengers.  Republicans lost four seats – four friends by the names of Donna, Caroline, Mary Pat, and Sam.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his “bi-partisan” plan that targets many of the same people that Governor Christie pissed off in 2015.  It should be noted that Sweeney’s plan was formally rolled out after the filing deadline for the Democrat primary.  Unfortunately for Republicans… it is some months until the November election.

This is not about the merits of the “bi-partisan plan” but rather, it is about the politics and timing of the plan.   

Are Republicans in danger of repeating 2015 again? 

Will the super PACS’s controlled by Sweeney allies like George Norcross back up every Republican legislator on the ballot this year?  Or will they stay true to form and support their Democrat challengers?  Will the Republicans on the ballot this year end up getting it from both ends?

This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.

GOP Chair Scanlan slams Democrats on Murphy ties

Late this afternoon, New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein covered an exchange between Sussex County Chairs Jerry Scanlan and Leslie Huhn of the Republican and Democrat county committees, respectively.  Responding to Huhn’s earlier announcement that Trenton lawyer-lobbyist Deana Lykins and ethically challenged attorney Dan Smith had been recruited by Governor Murphy to target Sussex County natives Parker Space and Hal Wirths, the GOP’s Scanlan delivered with both barrels:

huhn & murphy.jpg

Sussex County Republican chairman Jerry Scanlan wonders why his Democratic counterpart, Leslie Huhn, isn’t taking on Gov. Phil Murphy and the issues involving his former aide, Al Alvarez.

“As a woman, Chair Huhn should question why has it has become unsafe for women to volunteer on Democrat campaigns – and why, when they do come forward, a cover-up ensues and victims are treated so poorly,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan says that if Democrats want to do something about “job creation, transportation issues, high property taxes and the opioid epidemic,” they should put those questions to Gov. Phil Murphy.

Scanlan’s comments came after Sussex Democratic chair Leslie Hahn announced her slate of Assembly candidates opposing incumbents Parker Space (R-Wantage) and Hal Wirths (R-Wantage).

Hahn’s candidates in the 24th district are former Senate Democratic staffer Deana Lykins and former municipal court judge Dan Smith. 

“They need to ask Governor Murphy and the Trenton Democrats why they slashed school funding in LD24, placing pressure on local school boards to raise property taxes,” said Scanlan.

“They need to ask Governor Murphy and the Trenton Democrats why they added almost $2 billion in new state taxes – part of which to cover the cost for their Sanctuary State scam and more benefits for illegals.  Now they are looking to raise taxes again and have even passed a bill placing a tax on rain water.”

“Until she has answers to these questions, Chair Huhn should agree with us that there is a need for more Republican legislators, not less,” said Scanlan.  “Nobody wants to see Murphy’s one-party state become even more unbalanced.”

Huhn issued her endorsement “on behalf of the Sussex, Warren, and Morris County Democratic Organizations”.  Word has it that local Republicans could not be more delighted.

Dawn Addiego exchanges one machine for another.

Dawn Marie Addiego has always been a cosseted politician.  Depending on others to lay out a path for her.  To brush the impediments from her way.

Hence, from her earliest days she was attracted to establishment politicians and powerful political machines.  The old Burlco GOP machine of Glenn Paulsen worked for her – and in return for her exact fealty and obedience she rose through its ranks.  Now, with the patrimony of Paulsen squandered by others, the Senator set adrift, she has looked for and found a new powerful political machine to protect her.

Engaging, charming, tough – but pleasant – her insecurities have led her to changing one party for another.  Of course, her attempt to define her switch as maintaining some core affinity for the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan is total nonsense.  As Senator Addiego well knows, she has never been comfortable with the Republican electorate and the political platform of the national Republican Party… not since Ronald Reagan changed it in 1980.  In this, she has remained in lockstep with the establishment GOP in Burlington County.

Lacking a Republican message – unable to embrace, motivate, and lead Republicans and those who are open to voting for Republicans – Senator Addiego reasoned that she had no choice but to become a Democrat.  Now she should look to the fate of Arlen Specter and know that she may be called to account, like Specter was, by the “purer” elements within her new party.  Her hope must be that powerful men will protect her.  Her faith… must look to her new bosses.

Some weeks ago, we explained how both major parties are really each three separate parties all occupying the same space and seeking to speak for the same “brand”. 

(1) There is the broad “party” defined by formal “membership” (voter registration, etc.), self-identification, or electoral support.  These people have some idea of what the party brand means and they like candidates to adhere to it.  They like to get what they think they are voting for.

(2) Next is the activist base.  These people are motivated by a particular issue or set of issues (or by a candidate who serves as the vessel for such).  Some organize themselves to great effectiveness.  Many are organized permanently and have established themselves as genuine powers.  Others can be motivated in the right season, on a case by case basis.  The most successful are able to create enough activity to earn a living from their activism (essentially, they are paid for their leadership).

(3) Finally we have the “professional” party – the regulars.  Broadly speaking, they are paid or make money from politics, whether as attorneys, vendors, lobbyists, elected officials, appointed officials, patronage employees, political consultants, legislative staff, and such.  They are transactional and make money through or directly from politics – that is the big difference between them and the broader party. 

The story of Dawn Marie Addiego wouldn’t be complete without an exposition of the role played by this “professional” party – and its corruption.

Leave it to David “Wally Edge” Wildstein to annotate the role played by lobbyist Jeff Michaels… once a captain in the regime of Republican Senate President Donnie DiFrancesco, now part of the far-flung empire of Democrat Party boss George Norcross.  According to Wildstein, editor at the New Jersey Globe, Michaels played a key role in negotiating Addiego’s party switch.

Those of us who remember the young Jeff Michaels – then a stalwart Republican, YAFer, and religious conservative – will sadly recall when he left being a legislative staffer for a lobbying gig that led him down the path of… money.  We lost a great compatriot and mammon gained a very effective advocate.  Of course, such is the world. 

We wonder what will become of District 8 Chief of Staff Rick England, a lieutenant in the DiFrancesco operation, who once answered to Michaels.  Will he follow his Senator?  Rick ran the District 8 office and controlled it very closely.  He knows the sins of all he served which, given the circumstances, could be of benefit to the Assembly Democrats this year… or SRM in 2021.  So in thrall was Senator Addiego to her handler that she refused to meet with a bi-partisan delegation of religious leaders regarding the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, simply because Rick would not sign off on it.  Such is the power he held at the District 8 Legislative Office.

So we can see how the concerns of each of these three separate parties all occupying the same space and seeking to speak for the same “brand” can be very different.  While the first two want candidates who will represent some set of principles, the concerns of the “professional” party can often come down to… dough-re-me. 

At the “professional” party level, this can lead to a certain “blending” of the two major parties.  And that, of course, leads to an estrangement from the base.

The illusion of LGBT’s power to help Republicans…

Yes, we know it’s about the parties.  Who wouldn’t want to be invited?  The music is cool, the drinks well poured, the energy is just… better.  But none of this is about politics.

Once again we must, sadly, point out that Republicans do not benefit by currying favor with Garden State Equality and the state’s LGBT political bosses.  To have GSE high priest Chris Fuscarino’s benediction means nothing in a General Election and even less in a Republican primary.

Two incumbent Republican congressman came to an understanding with GSE that meant keeping social conservatives at arm’s length.  In return for dissing their base, their Democrat opponents lost Fuscarino’s blessing – but won (or appear to have won) their elections anyway. 

As with the case of Bob “I am a different kind of Republican” Hugin, wrapping oneself in a rainbow flag meant not a jot on the profit side – but very much depressed the base on the debit side.  Conversely, the one unabashedly social conservative Republican in the congressional delegation – the one specifically targeted for defeat by Garden State Equality – won re-election without much difficulty.  It appears he will now be New Jersey’s only Republican member of Congress. 

We suspect this is why the ever watchful David Wildstein placed GSE’s Chris Fuscarino in the losers column on Friday, over at NewJerseyGlobe.com.  Wildstein noted that the portly Fuscarino “missed the boat” by failing to endorse the Democrat challengers to the two GOP incumbents and instead “making his top target the only Republican congressman who won.”

Sigh… When will Republicans learn that the only sure way to earn the support of people who vote like LGBT is their top priority is by executing a change of registration form and running in the Democrat primary.  It’s all about the shoes, and red is just so out of fashion. 

2019: There are millions in conservative money in NJ

When it comes to picking through the detritus and finding the gems nobody does it better than David Wildstein.  Yep, before he was Wally Edge he was a political consultant, campaign manager, opposition researcher, and successful candidate for public office.  You can’t take that away from him.  He’s been in battles up close and personal.  He’s had to punch and claw.  And that’s what makes him different from a guy like Max Pizarro.  David Wildstein remembers what it was like to be in the muck of the trenches.  Max Pizarro has only known clean sheets and maid service.

Given the excruciatingly poor results Republicans have had raising the necessary levels of funding for legislative races in New Jersey, a recent post by Wildstein on his latest venture – NewJerseyGlobe.com – noted that the very conservative United States Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has raised more money in New Jersey than his very woke, very hip, wildly popular with the Left opponent – Congressman Beto O’Rourke.  Cruz has raised $139,783 in New Jersey to fund his re-election effort in Texas.  Media darling Beto managed just $52,349.  

But here’s the clincher.  Wildstein notes that in his failed 2016 run for President, the plain-as-day, no-doubt-about-it, right-winger raised $903,417 in New Jersey

How is that possible?  We are endlessly told that there aren’t any conservatives in New Jersey – let alone nearly a million bucks worth (and that’s not counting what the other wingers raised in New Jersey, like Rand Paul, and Donald Trump himself!).  A million bucks would be a BIG part of the budget of a committee like ARV, wouldn’t it be?

Reminder to those concerned:  In preparation for next year, get a message that doesn’t ignore the acres of diamonds out there.